Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Read this article now! Don't put it off! Are you done yet?

I’ve been blogging for about a year now and I have mixed feelings. I like the fact that I can write anything I want, using whatever writing style I choose, and nobody is there to grade me. Heck, if I want to use the word “bullshit” to describe something, as in, “this blog entry is starting off to be bullshit,” that’s my prerogative. Nobody is waiting with a red pen to tell me that “bullshit” is not an appropriate word for this sentence and perhaps I should have chosen “suck-ass.”
That’s the part I like. What I don’t like is the absence of deadlines. If I want to write one blog entry a day, that’s great. If I want to write one word a day, so be it. Of course that may change if I ever get a loyal blog following. But considering that, at last count, there were 5 billion people on earth and 10.3 billion blogs floating around the Internet, I don’t see that happening.
So I blog at my leisure, writing dynamic prose whenever the mood hits me. That's why I think my blog sucks.
I work best when there’s a gun being held to my head. I think everybody does although many will disagree. Sure, there are those of you reading this and thinking, “not true. I don’t like pressure. Pressure brings out the worst in me. I like to work at my own pace”
Now stop and ask yourself, when have you ever HAD the chance to work at your own pace? Life is one big deadline: Wake the kids up by 7, get them on the bus by 8, get to work by nine, soccer pickup at 5, game at 6, dinner at 7:30, blah blah blah. We’ve been dealing with deadlines ever since our first day of kindergarten when the teacher said, “write about what you did over the summer. And it better be on my desk in 20 minutes.”
Okay, maybe the teacher didn’t say it like that, unless of course you attended a Catholic school run by the Eldest of the Elder Sisters of the Holy Pandemic. But your assignment did have a due date, right? And even at five years old, you knew that you had better put something down on the page pretty soon or there were going to be consequences. Even though, at five, you had no idea what “consequences” meant.
In college I immediately hated professors who assigned a HUGE project on the first day and then announced it wasn’t due until the end of term. Usually it was some hip, pony-tailed dude who got stoned in the parking lot moments before entering the lecture room, introduced himself as Professor O’Malley but preferred the students call him “Chaz,” and reminded everybody - especially the female students - that his office door was “always open,” even on Friday nights. Then he’d explain the class and the accompanying assignment, which was something like “pick five neighborhoods in the surrounding community, each with a different racial and economic makeup. Review census data and form hypotheses about past and present conditions. Predict the future of each area and support your prediction by interviewing politicians, business leaders and clergy members. Draw a topographical map of each location and use color-coated pushpins to identify high-crime areas, future development possibilities and areas currently undergoing gentrification. Figure out what “gentrification” means. Using a pencil, sketch plans for a new, state-of-the-art high school. Include a pool. Run for mayor of at least one neighborhood. Extra credit if you win. Double extra credit if you can prove you won without offering or accepting bribes.”
Professor Chaz then lit a cigarette and announced that attendance for the rest of the semester was “optional.” And every college student, myself included, left the hall thinking, “Whoa, I’ve got PLENTY of time to do that. Let’s drink!”
Of course, this assignment followed me around like paparazzi following Britney Spears. No matter what I was doing with my free time – attending a basketball game, playing intramural football, hanging out in the fraternity on Sunday afternoon, whatever – that assignment was constantly in the back of my head. And as the weeks went by and I still had done nothing, it moved to the front of my head where it became a migraine. Suddenly, the due date was two weeks away and I was sweating profusely as I tried to identify actual neighborhoods and pleaded with local politicians to give me five minutes of their time somewhere between 3 and 4 a.m. Inevitably I’d meet a classmate who, I hoped, shared my predicament and could vent with me about how there just wasn’t enough time to finish this ridiculous assignment. However, the classmate would usually burst my bubble by saying, “oh, I finished that months ago. I would have been done sooner but it was tough to nail down that interview with President Clinton.”
But somehow I’d finish it and pull a surprisingly decent grade. That’s when I realized that I work best under pressure. Procrastination accomplishes nothing. I just read that China is currently building eight cities the size of Houston, Texas. Eight freakin’ CITIES! I just visited New York and, four years after the World Trade Center bombing, the site still sits vacant, a gaping hole to remind everyone that we can’t get our shit together. The Chinese would look at that hole and have a replacement structure built within an hour.
If you don’t believe that amazing, well-crafted work can be done on deadline, flip through the pages of Cosmopolitan. I recently went to pick up my wife at her hair salon. I’ve always thought that a "salon" was no different than Supercuts, except for the extra zero on the bill. Ath both places you get your hair cut, return home, look in the mirror and decide the finished product looks like crap. The difference is that Supercuts achieves this mood in 10 minutes while salons take up to eight hours.
When I arrived my wife was sitting in a chair with foil on her head. She looked like an enormous leftover. Of course, thirteen years of marriage has taught me to keep these observations to myself.
Sensing that the foil was not going to be removed until her hair reached medium rare, I perused the magazine on the coffee table. Since this was a hair salon, no copies of Golf Digest, Esquire, GQ or Guns and Ammo were in site. So I picked up the May issue of Cosmo. On the cover was that cute little actress, Mandy Moore, who started appearing in teen magazines when she was about 14.
But next to cute Mandy in the May 2006 issue of Cosmo was the screaming headline “ORGASMS UNLIMITED. HOW TO ACHIEVE A FEEL GOOD EXPLOSION…AND THEN ANOTHER…AND ANOTHER! I read later that Mandy was upset with the cover because the placement of the orgasm headline implied that Mandy knew how to have non-stop orgasms. No doubt Mandy received some interesting fan mail in May. Then again, her publicist should have reminded sweet innocent Mandy that this was Cosmopolitan not Home and Garden. Seriously, what did she expect? “HOW TO ACHIEVE UNLIMITED HIBISCUS!”
Ladies, I’m not going to go into detail about how to achieve UNLIMITED, FEEL GOOD EXPLOSIONS, because I don't have the issue with me. (I stole it and put it under my wife's pillow) But the article, written by Cosmo scribe Theresa O'Rourke, was superbly written. Theresa coined phrases like "moan zone," "bliss coma" and "full body earthquake." Heck, it even diagrammed orgasms with charts featuring wavy lines similar to the ones you’d see on an EKG or at an seismology center. The pink wave looked like a roller coaster track and in fact represented "a series of roller coaster-like waves that are 2 to 10 minutes apart." Miss O'Rourke dubbed this line "sequential multiples." Then she drew an orange line, which looked like a corkscrew laid on its side. This was the "serial multiple" line and symbolized "rapid-fire shots of pleasure with only a few seconds of interruption."


The article did what I think it was supposed to do, which was turn me on! I wanted to make love to my wife right there in the salon, foil and all! And as I continued reading, all I kept thinking was, somewhere Theresa O'Rourke is walking around. Maybe she was in the Cosmo offices , accepting accolades for her stellar work.
'HeyTheresa, nice job on the serial multiples piece. I liked it much better than your 'how to get diamonds from your man on a yearly basis'
And because Theresa works for a monthly magazine, she had to write about orgasms ON DEADLINE! At a staff meeting, the editor said, “Okay, who wants to write about rapid-fire pleasure shots. How about you, O'Rourke?”
After Theresa agreed, she had to go home and start thinking about the article. She had to conduct reseach and I don't even want to know how she did that! Was the reseach conducted at work?

BOSS: Jesus O'Rourke, get off the copier and put some clothes on. And how did those two guys on top of you get past security? What the hell are you doing?

O'Rourke: Research sir.

Theresa also had to look at her calendar and realize she had a set amount of time to write about multiple orgasms. Maybe one day at work she opened up an email from the stressed out editor that read, “I need multiple orgasms on my desk by Thursday at the latest.” And dammit, she did it! Wow, did she ever. What if Theresa didn’t have a deadline? What if she chose to write only after she’d actually HAD an orgasm? Would the article have been written that fast. Probably since I get the impression Theresa is able to climax simply by doing routine tasks, like laundry.
But let's suppose Theresa didn't have the ability to put her money where her orgasms were? What if she had broken up with her boyfriend or divorced her husband only days before receiving the assignment? What if her prospects for sex were about as low as President Bush's approval ratings? The article could have taken forever! That's why deadlines are so cruical to good work. Set a deadline for yourself in whatever you do. It can be truly multi-orgasmic.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Wipe that smile off your face!

I had to chuckle the other day when I opened the paper and read the plight of Boston resident Deborah Elizabeth Finn.
Come to think of it, that’s exactly what Ms. Finn wanted me to do.
Deborah Elizabeth Finn (a perfect name, by the way, for someone who lives in Boston) has posted a pledge on asking everyone to do what she does – smile and say hello to passing strangers on the street. Ms. Finn, it seems, thinks people are just too darn grumpy. Then again, Bostonians live in a city that’s home to a construction project known as “The Big Dig,” which was started about the time Paul Revere announced that the British were coming. The last I heard, the Big Dig was scheduled for completion shortly after an asteroid obliterates the earth – give or take a few years.
It appears Finn’s idea is picking up steam. Already 68(!) fellow residents have signed her pledge. Some gave their full names. Way to go, John Hoang Sarvey and Cynthia Carr Gardner (again, great Boston names!) Others like “Lyn” and “Sarah” gave only their first names, probably out of fear of having their asses kicked by residents who don’t share Finn’s sentiment.
Well today I tried Finn’s approach. And the following is my report.

Dear Deborah Elizabeth Finn: How is your campaign going? Did you greet lots of strangers today? Me too! I started this morning by greeting the bus driver who drives my nine year old to school. Normally I’d never lay eyes on the bus driver since my daughter gets picked up a mere block from our house. But we both know that sexual predators can be lurking just about anywhere and nobody in my neighborhood wants to take the risk of letting our kids out of our sight. So after my daughter had boarded, I smiled at the bus driver, mostly out of relief that my little girl had made it onto the bus safely. I just hope the driver has had a thorough criminal background check.
My next object of facial affection was the stranger behind the counter at the gas station. I gave him a smile although it was through gritted teeth since I was paying him 85 bucks for a tank full of gas. And the “full” part is a stretch. The gas gauge needle swayed away from the ‘f’ shortly after I left the parking lot. But who cares? The point is, I smiled at the attendant. I felt good because a smile is a universal gesture, understood in any language. Even to the Pakistani gentleman behind the counter who spoke zero English.
Next it was off to the mall, as I needed some new summer clothes. You would have been so proud of me, Ms. Finn! I smiled at the stranger working in the men’s clothing department. Problem was, I don’t think he saw me because he was too busy yakking on his cell phone, oblivious to the fact that I had three items in my hand waiting to be purchased. Once he hung up, he rolled his eyes repeatedly upon realizing that I wanted to (GASP!) exchange an item. Apparently this transaction fell well outside his line of expertise, leading to his advanced state of annoyance. But I continued smiling in spite of my overpowering urge to take the pins out of newly bought clothing and stick them in his eyeballs.
Well, nothing makes me hungrier than shopping so it was off to a fast food drive through. I didn’t smile when I was ordering a “number three with a diet Coke.” Remember, a smile first requires eye contact and it's impossible to make eye contact with somebody talking through the other end of a muffled speaker. But upon pulling around, I gave a big smile to the stranger in the window, who took my money and handed me a “number six with coffee.” I hate to admit this but my smile faded ever so slightly when I told her the order was wrong. She immediately corrected it by handing me decaf coffee. I believe I was still smiling when I pulled away 10 minutes later. Oh, and I also smiled at the restaurant manager who came to the window probably because he wanted to know why everybody behind me was leaning on their horns.
Next it was off to the airport to catch a flight to San Francisco. Lots of strangers in an airport, right? What better place to put the Finn pledge to good use? I smiled at the first Transportation Security Administration official I encountered while she compared my photo with the name on my ticket and decided that yes, it was the same person. I smiled at the second TSA official, standing just 10 feet away from the first one, who checked my ID and ticket again. And I smiled at the third TSA official, standing just 20 feet away, who, you guessed it, repeated the process. None of these people smiled back, by the way.
I emptied the contents of my pockets into the gray bin and gave a big smile to the stranger manning the metal detector. Upon seeing my smile, he immediately pulled me aside for private screening. Smiling apparently raises a red flag among airport security personnel. To them a smile means, “I am carrying box cutters in my carry on and my gleeful look is only a front to distract you.”
But I wasn’t deterred, Ms. Finn! I smiled at the fifth TSA employee – the one with the rubber gloves who asked me if I had any “sensitive areas” before he patted me down. I’ll admit he gave me a strange look when I smiled while he patted my inner thigh. But obviously this guy has never been to your web site.
Walking through terminal three at O’Hare I smiled at everybody including the courtesy cart driver who nearly ran me over, the college student who would find out very soon that his backpack would no way in Hell fit in the overhead bin, and the gate agent who told me to “sit down sir,” because there were no first-class upgrades available. At least she called me sir.
I boarded the plane and smiled at the stranger next to me. Might as well be friendly since our elbows and shoulders would be touching for the next four hours, right? I thought I remember reading something about how American Airlines had reconfigured their planes to offer “more room.” Must have read that in the Enquirer. My seatmate didn’t smile back because he was pecking away on his laptop.
I had one more chance to smile – at the flight attendant who served me my four ounces of diet Coke and the bag of Pretzels which constituted my in-flight meal. Guess what? She smiled back. Of course I think this was because she knew she only had two more rows to serve and then her “workday” would be over.
Now I’m in San Francisco, about to turn out the lights in my hotel room. I’ll be in Boston in three weeks and I hope we get a chance to meet. I’ll know it’s you, Ms Finn. You’ll be the stranger giving me a big smile.
And I will be the guy who responds, “eat me!”